How to Clean and Care for Acetate and Triacetate Clothes

Close up of acetate fabric
  blackred / Getty Images 

Acetate and triacetate are synthetic fabrics made from spun filaments of cellulose. Both materials function as a substitute for silk in less-expensive garments, and similar care must be taken when washing these delicate fabrics. Acetate is also used frequently for suit and coat linings.

Acetate manufacturers often suggest dry cleaning because the material doesn't always react well with water and becomes weaker when wet. With extra care, however, it is possible to wash some acetate fabrics at home. Loose and flowing acetate garments usually don't need frequent laundering. However, tighter clothing such as a fitted acetate tank, blouse, or dress will require cleaning after every wear.

How to Wash Acetate and Triacetate Clothes
Detergent Gentle
Water Temperature Cold
Cycle Type Delicate or hand-wash
Drying Cycle Type Do not machine-dry
Special Treatments Air-dry only
Iron Settings Low

Project Metrics

Working time: 10 minutes

Total time: Up to 24 hours, including drying time

Skill level: Beginner

What You'll Need

Supplies

Tools

Instructions

  1. Read the Care Label Before Washing

    Always read and carefully follow care labels in clothing for best results. Even though acetate and triacetate fabrics can be washed, some garment care tags may recommend dry cleaning only to preserve the shape and structure of the garment. If you are a novice at doing laundry or the garment is expensive, follow the dry cleaning recommendation.

  2. Place Garments Into Mesh Bag

    Prevent snagging from zippers on other clothes by placing the garment in a mesh bag before adding to the washer. Turn the item inside-out before putting it in the bag for extra protection.

  3. Load and Set the Washing Machine

    Do not overload the washer. Choose the gentle cycle and cold water settings, and select a reduced speed spin cycle. Too much agitation and high-speed spinning can produce excessive wrinkles that can be very difficult to remove from acetate and triacetate fabrics.

  4. Remove From Washer and Air-Dry

    Skip the clothes dryer and allow acetate and triacetate clothes to air-dry by laying them flat or hanging them on a drying rack. Excessive heat may cause garments to shrink.

What Are Acetate and Triacetate Fabrics?

Acetate fiber is man-made and manufactured from cellulose or wood pulp. What originally began in Europe as a manufactured coating for airplane wings, became a staple in fabric production in the United States by 1924 by the Celanese Corporation. 

Originally acetate was not dye-stable and color bleeding would occur. However, this was resolved by textile experts who realized that solution dyeing the fibers rather than waiting to dye the finished fabric made the color stable. Now all man-made fibers are solution-dyed before weaving or knitting.

Since acetate is less expensive to produce than many other fibers (thanks to an abundance of wood pulp), and it's not very durable, acetate is often used for short-term special occasion wear like graduation gowns and party dresses. It is also the fabric of choice for some accessories like ribbons, scarves, and neckties that aren't worn often.

Additional advancements were made by the Celanese Corporation in the 1950s with the development of triacetate. Triacetate is a cellulosic fiber made with wood pulp, but it contains less cellulose than regular acetate fibers. That means triacetate handles better when washed, it can withstand more agitation and heat without damaging the fibers, and it's wrinkle resistant. Triacetate is also used to make dresses, skirts, sportswear, and other types of garments where the retention of permanent pleats is important.

Ironing

If the garment must be ironed, use a low temperature and a pressing cloth to prevent the melting of fibers that can create holes or shiny spots. Press while the fabric is slightly damp and turned inside out.

Storing Acetate and Triacetate Clothes

Store acetate garments away from any alcohol-based products like perfume or nail polish remover, which can cause damage to the fabric. Instead of hanging items—which can cause garments to lose their shape—fold and store the garments flat.

Repairs

Mending a tear in an acetate or a triacetate lining requires a needle and thread. Trim or tuck under any frayed edges of the rip, then pinch or pin the tear together. Stitch the tear together the best you can. It doesn't need to be perfect since it's hidden in an interior lining.

If you have a small rip in taffeta that's made of acetone, it's best to use fabric repair tape to stop the problem from tearing any further. Fixing fraying acetate requires either trimming away the threads, tucking under the fabric and hand-sewing a clean edge, or applying a fabric glue formulated to stop fraying.

Treating Stains on Acetate and Triacetate Clothes

Treat stains on acetate and triacetate fabrics with a stain remover that's meant for the specific type of stain you're treating, such as coffee stains, ink, or makeup. To remove unpleasant smells, presoak the garment for 30 minutes in cold water that's been mixed with 1 cup of baking soda, then wash normally.

Never use acetone (nail polish remover) or organic solvents like turpentine to remove stains on acetate or triacetate because the fibers will dissolve. This cannot be reversed.

Tips for Washing Acetate and Triacetate Clothes

  • Acetate is a weak fiber and shouldn't be exposed to any type of heat or the fabric can melt.
  • If you have a dress or suit that can be hand-washed, but the lining is acetate, take the garment to a dry cleaner for professional cleaning.
  • Pleated garments made from triacetate can be hand-washed, but can also be taken to the dry cleaners.
  • Do not use starch on acetate clothing.
  • If the underarm areas of a suit or coat lining made of acetate are worn or retain underarm odors, a dry cleaner or tailor may be able to replace the area with patches or an entirely new lining.